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Hear Me Out: Kendrick Lamar, 'i'

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Kendrick Lamar – i

“I love myself,” sings Kendrick Lamar on his newest single, and if you didn’t already feel the same way about hip-hop’s rising star, then “i” might be just the track to change your mind.

The infectious, uplifting single is the first solo music Kendrick has released since his celebrated 2012 album, “good Kid, m.A.A.d. City.” The track’s unrelenting exuberance is a deviation from K. Dot’s typically dark tone. On his breakthrough album, Lamar impressed critics with his ability to rap about weighty issues in a way that didn’t scare mainstream listeners away. He led his audience through Compton’s harrowing streets, each track a moving and powerfully descriptive narrative.

“i,” in contrast, is far more radio-friendly. The track boasts a funky, upbeat rhythm, a sample of the Isley Brother’s R&B hit “Who’s That Lady,” and a catchy, life-affirming chorus. Although the intro proclaims that Kendrick is “not a rapper, he's a writer, he's an author,” the song doesn’t demonstrate Kendrick’s narrative prowess to the extent of his past work. It does, however, evidence Kendrick’s versatility.

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Some may accuse “i” of catering to the mainstream with its easy listenability and feel-good lyrics, but his message is not really so easy and light-hearted as it might initially seem. Though the lyrics have a message of resounding positivity, it is positivity in the face of a dark world. Kendrick’s lyrics—“They wanna say there's a war outside and a bomb in the street / And a gun in the hood and a mob of police”—recall the recent violence in Ferguson, and his message of self-love in a world that does not love you back feels powerful, perhaps even a bit subversive, but definitely not clichéd.

Loving yourself might be difficult at times. Loving Kendrick’s new single doesn’t have to be.

Lamar’s as-yet-unnamed album has no definite release date but is set for release later this year.

–Staff writer Lulu H. Kirk can be reached at lulu.kirk@thecrimson.com.

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